Tuesday, December 12, 2006

No Exit

Peter Larson wrote: “Despite our efforts to keep Him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked ‘No Entrance’ and left through a door marked ‘No Exit.’”

Monday, November 13, 2006


Some thoughts from famous people -- and some people you've never heard of . . .
"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. "

~ Jane Wagner

"Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important."

~ Natalie Goldberg, O Magazine

"To be sure, our mental processes often go wrong, so that we imagine God to have gone away. What should be done then? Do exactly what you would do if you felt most secure. Learn to behave thus even in deepest distress and keep yourself that way in any and every estate of life. I can give you no better advice than to find God where you lost him."

~ Meister Eckhart

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Have you ever heard of the spiritual disease which people in medieval times called accidie? It is something that threatens all Christian workers after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off. It's a form of sloth but not at the physical level. It is apathy of the soul. It shows in a certain toughness of mind and wariness of spirit which often results from hurt and disillusionment.

People with accidie in this sense have grown cynical about ideals, enthusiasms, and strong hopes. They look pityingly at young people and say, "They'll learn," taking it for granted that when they've learned, they'll become tough inside too. Once upon a time these leather-souled people were keen, hopeful, and expectant. But nothing happened, or they got hurt, and now they protect themselves against pain by adopting cynical, world-weary attitudes.

[Often this gets reflected by Christian people who begin to think of the church] mechanically, merely going through the motions because their light has really gone out and they're no longer expecting anything exciting to happen. They feel that they know from experience that exciting things don't happen, and that's an end of it. So they merely plod on, expecting nothing and receiving nothing.

But the Lord does not send us out on his work in order that nothing may happen. His word is intended to have impact; it's sent out to accomplish something. We ought never to settle for a non-expectant, defeated attitude. Rather we should be asking and expecting great things from God.

--James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, p. 10.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Song Lyrics

As I was driving home from Owatonna the following lyrics by Audio Adrenaline struck me:
I don't need theology
to know that God's been good to me
He's given me a family
and a place to lay my head
Flung into the great unknown
I was walking on my own
now I'll never walk alone
if I did I would be dead
I can't use it all myself
so I take it off the shelf
here it is, enjoy yourself
put away your drudgery,
use it up, there's always more
that's what it's intended for
be the Lord's ambassador
to be the planets remedy

That first line, especially hit me. I don't need theology
to know that God's been good to me. How true! I think we
can realize it thanks to our own experiences of God in our

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation vs. Halloween

Do you know what day it is today? That's right! It's Reformation!... oh, you thought it was Halloween. Does anyone else find it a little sad that Halloween has become the second biggest money maker for stores? Begging for Candy, smashing pumpkins, dressing up like demons... remind me again what exactly is spiritually redeeming about the day?

Just think, instead we could be celebrating the Reformation. Do you remember that historical act by Martin Luther that was largely about helping us understand that we are spiritually free? We could be celebrating that though we are slaves to sin we are set free by the blood of Jesus! Now that seems like something to celebrate. Tomorrow is All Saints day, where we celebrate all of the saints that have gone before us, and continue to encourage us in our faith (Hebrews 12:1). Now those seem a bit more redeeming and worthy of celebrating... maybe it's just me. I'll let you think about it. Meanwhile, I need to get home so I can hand out candy. (Dentist's brace yourself)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blind Pastor

I got the following e-mail today. I thought it fit nicely with the sermon we heard from Pastor Dave yesterday...

Pastor Steven E. Albertin told the following story. He wrote: in my church secretary's office there hangs a modernistic picture composed of a maze of colors and shapes. I realized these sophisticated, modern, and abstract pictures were supposed to contain some profound artistic or philosophical message, but I never was able to figure it out. It just looked like a jumbled mass of confusion. If there was a message there, I was blind to it.

One day while I was standing in the office, waiting for the copier to warm up, one of the congregation's kindergarten-age boys, Adam, stood beside me and said, "Do you see what I see?"

"Do you see something in that picture? I sure don't." Adam looked at me with glee in his eye, "Pastor, can't you see him? It's Jesus hanging on the cross." I stared as hard as I could, until my eyes actually hurt from staring. I wanted to believe Adam and that there actually was the image of Jesus hanging on the cross hidden somewhere in that mass of color and shapes, but I couldn't see Jesus anywhere. "Adam, I'm sorry but I must be blind. You will have to help me see."

Directing his finger to a mass of color in the center of the picture, Adam said, "There, Pastor. Do you see what I see? There is Jesus, his face, his arms outstretched on the cross." And then, like an epiphany, the image began to appear. Yes, there hidden somehow "behind" the colors and the shapes was the barely visible image of Jesus, hanging with arms outstretched on the cross. "It's amazing, Adam. You have helped one blind pastor to see Jesus. Yes, I can see what you see, Adam."

--Steven E. Albertin, Against the Grain, CSS Publishing

Thanks to all of you that help the blind pastors see Jesus!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I was reading this morning from "My Utmost For His Highest" and Oswald Chambers starts out talking about love saying:

If what we call love doesn't take us beyond ourselves, it is not really love. If we have the idea that love is characterized as cautious, wise, sensible, shrewd, and never taken to extremes, we have missed the true meaning.

He goes on to challenge our love a little bit further asking:

Have you ever been driven to do something for God not because you felt that it was useful or your duty to do so, or that there was anything in it for you, but simply because you love Him? Have you ever realized that you can give things to God that are of value to Him?

What an amazing thought, that little ol' me might be of value to God. If you ask me, that is a rather profound notion. Yet, incredibly, it is absolutely true. Now, I think that's pretty cool. Chambers then takes this notion of love and moves it to surrender, suggesting that it is when we surrender to God that we become of tremendous value to Him.

We should quit asking ourselves, "Am I of any use?" and accept the truth that we really are not of much use to Him. The issue is never of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. Once we are totally surrendered to God, He will work through us all the time.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hurry Sickness

Today's devotion in "Our Daily Bread" talks about what some people call "hurry sickness" where our stress levels rise because we find ourselves sucked into the fast line of life demanding quick arrivals and instant results.

It becomes even more problematic we demand this of our spiritual lives. The author makes the comparison to an apple that is not quite ripe. It's not that it's a bad apple, it's just that God isn't done making it yet. It is good. It is where it's supposed to be in it's life. The same is true of us in our spiritual lives. It takes a lifetime to really grow in our faith lives.

This struck me as well from as a pastor. There are times I look out at our congregation and I see the amazing potential for God to work through all of us, yet we seeming fall short of that potential regularly. (I have tremendous dreams for the ministry this congregation can, and will, do.) What I needed to be reminded of today was that we are just where we need to be as a spiritual whole. It will take time for us to grow into the entirety of the ministry to which God has called us.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jeremiah 31:31-34

God's covenant demands exclusivity, much like the most intimate of human relationships - marriage. When persons marry, they promise to forsake all others: the lover declares publicly his/her choosing the beloved, exclusively.

God chose Israel; but Israel broke God's covenant by pursuing other gods. God exposes Israel's infidelity when using the lamenting yet accusatory words: "though I was their husband."

We too court other gods. In the face of our unfaithfulness to the covenant, God maintains faithfulness, forgiving our sins through the new covenant, through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

God chooses to be known to all people - from the least to the greatest - by forgiving our iniquity and remembering our sin no more. Thanks be to God!

Gracious and faithful God, we confess to you our misdirected affections. Grant us forgiveness and newness, through your Son Jesus. Amen.

Eugene R. Zeller
Peace Lutheran Church, Loveland, Colo.
Master of Divinity , 1997

What Can Be Done?

Too often, we can be overwhelmed like the disciples - we look at our small selves and think how little we have to offer, how little we can do. How can we possibly make changes in the world when we are so small, when we have so little to work with? What can we do? We respond, like the disciples, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish!" But in doing so, we shortchange ourselves and God, rejecting, by our inaction, the gifts which God gives to us.

If we say there is nothing we can do, then we are in fact saying that God has not given us enough, or good enough. Jesus shows us that we just need to use what we have, put some heart and faith behind it, and watch miracles take place. We ask, "What good will our little bit do?" But Jesus' answer is always the same - to the one cup of cold water offered to a child, to the one widow's mite, to the five loaves of bread. The answer Jesus gives is, "Let's see what good we can do here."


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Whatcha Gonna Do?

Last night I was in Owatonna to hear Tony Campolo speak. It really was an inspirational night, filled with plenty of challenges. My favorite went something like this:

"Let me give you a Lutheran word. Grace. Yes, absolutely, we are saved by Grace through faith... So whatcha gonna do about it?"

Campolo then went on to tell a story about riding the subway in England. While on the subway a man started having an epileptic seizure. His buddy put a newspaper in his mouth and folded his jacket to lay under his head. When the seizure stopped the buddy apologized and explained a little further. You gotta understand, the man said, we were in Vietnam together. Then he explained the horrific story how the two of them were shot, their rescue helicopter was destroyed, and they were left for dead. He explained, how despite unbelievable pain the man who now had the seizure had pulled the two of them out of the jungle. They were so bad off that twice they ran into VietCong and twice they left them alone because they were so bad off. A couple of years ago the man who had pulled the two of them out started having these seizures and he needed somebody to be with him because he never knew when they would happen. So this gentleman sold nearly everything he owned in New York and moved to England to be with his buddy. "What you don't understand," the man concluded, "is that after what he did for me there is nothing I wouldn't do for him."

We through it around so much it almost becomes a brush off statement, that Jesus died for you. Yet it is true. It is powerful. It is incredible. Jesus paid the price for your sins. Jesus turned the whole world on its head. Jesus died so that we might all be saved... by grace.

Now, whatcha gonna do about it?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Words can do strange and amazing things to us. There are some words that we only need to hear once for there is such power in them we know exactly where our place is in them. Words like:
"The (Twins) lost."
"Can I see your drivers license?"
"The cancer is terminal"
"We made it (to our destination) safely"

Then there are those words that we like to hear over and over again. Sometimes, despite how often we hear them, we can't hear them enough. Words like:
"Free food"
"Honey, I'm home!"
"I love you"

I think God's word falls into that second category for me. Oh, it's true that I have tendency to neglect God's word, but when I hear it I can't believe how much it refreshes, challenges, and renews me. God's words work in me in incredible ways. How are God's Words working in you today?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

White & Nerdy

Okay, so this isn't exactly "churchy" but it was a music video I found I could relate to.

Monday, October 16, 2006

About Wealth...building on yesterday's sermon

Loosing Ourselves in our Possessions

There was a man who loved gold. Then he inherited a fortune. With joy he redecorated his bedroom. He put gold parchment wallpaper up, hung yellow curtains, had a golden colored rug and a yellow bedspread. He even bought some yellow pajamas. But then he got sick and came down with, of all things, yellow jaundice. His wife called the doctor who made a house call and went up to that bedroom for an examination. The doctor stayed up there a long while. When he came down, the wife asked, "How is he?"

"Don't know," said the doctor. "I couldn't find him."

Indeed many people today are absolutely absorbed in and lost in a world of greed and materialism.

Dr. Adrian Rogers


The Doomed Wasp

George Orwell, writing during the Second World War, tells of a rather cruel trick he once played on a wasp. The wasp was sucking jam on his plate and he cut him in half. The wasp paid no attention to what had happened to him, but just went on with his meal, while a tiny, stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly did he realize the terrible thing that happened to him.

What a picture of a solely consumer-oriented humanity, gorging itself, earthbound, and oblivious to its plight.

Adapted from Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journals and Letters Vol. II New
York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968, p. 15.


The Trouble with Money

Guys, just remember, if you get lucky, if you make a lot of money, if you get out and buy a lot of stuff--it's gonna break. You got your biggest, fanciest mansion in the world. It has air conditioning. It's got a pool.
Just think of all the pumps that are going to go out. Or go to a yacht basin any place in the world. Nobody is smiling, and I'll tell you why. Something broke that morning. The generator's out; the microwave oven doesn't work. .
. .Things just don't mean happiness.

H. Ross Perot (Billionaire and former Presidential candidate) in Fortune magazine.


Marketing Gone Mad

At the Coca-Cola Company, we have built and grown for more than 110 years.
Remaining disciplined to our mission has brought us to remarkable places.
Not long ago, we did some research and came up with an interesting set of facts.

A billion hours ago, human life appeared on Earth.

A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged.

A billion seconds ago, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

A billion Coca-Colas ago was yesterday morning.

And the question we are asking ourselves now is: What must we do to make a billion Coca-Colas ago be this morning?

Address by Roberto C. Goizueta, Chairman, CEO, Coca-Cola, delivered to the Executive Club of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, November 20, 1996. Taken from Vital Speeches of the Day, January 15, 1997, p. 201.


We Want It Our Way

The story of Faust by Goethe has become part of our heritage. Faust was a man who longed for romance, academic success, and wealth. Unable to find these on his own, he made a pact with the devil. If he could be granted his wishes, have his true worth made public and enjoy its fruits, then he would give his soul to the devil. Sure enough, he enjoyed marvelous romances, fabulous successes, and much wealth. Oddly enough, when the time came, he was unwilling to keep his part of the bargain. I wonder if there is a parallel here. We put Jesus off, promising, “Just one more of this and one more of that -- then I will be willing to go with you, Jesus.” Are we not like little Fausts, wanting to have it our way? After all, we say, we deserve it! And what do we say to Jesus when he comes to claim us?

Thomas Peterson, The Needle's Eye, CSS Publishing Company.


Remember, no one is worthless. Any person can always be held up as a bad example.


Hope Quotes

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up."

~ Ann LaMott

"While there's life, there's hope."

~ Cicero

"Human pain does not let go of its grip at one point in time. Rather, it works its way out of our consciousness over time. There is a season of sadness. A season of anger. A season of tranquility. A season of hope."

~ Robert Veninga

Marbles and Toes

My daughter broke her ankle five hours after arriving on her university campus to begin her final year of college. This is after being out of school for a year and a half and signing up for a massive load of difficult courses in order to finish by June. I dropped her off and five hours later, already in between flights home, I was talking to her on a cell phone and she was hysterical with pain on her way to the hospital.

A few months later she had permanent pins and a plate for an ankle, she was wired to set off metal detector alarms in airports for the rest of her life. I remember she told me how excited she was to get her first instructions in physical therapy. Being the physical person that she is, she was envisioning bulking up on special exercising machines, starting major work on building back her leg and ankle. The therapy she was all excited about turned out to be picking up marbles with her toes. “And guess what?” she told me, “I can’t do it yet.” For someone of limited patience like my daughter, this was going to be quite a test.

Spiritual growth is a lot like physical therapy. Faith needs to be exercised in order to grow, and sometimes it seems we can’t even pick up marbles with our fingers, much less our toes. But the more we work at it, the stronger we become. Faith is like a muscle; nourish it and exercise it, and it will grow. Each time you step out in faith, it becomes easier to step into greater things. You believe God more because of what he has done for you in the past. Each new step creates more confidence.

Just keep in mind, however, that spiritual supermen don’t exist. The minute you get strong in one area, God shows you something else for which you need to trust him. And Galatians 6:1 reminds us that even the strongest are not exempt from a fall. So this applies to everyone, new believer to old: Faith needs to be exercised to be healthy. Somewhere in your life and mine, we’re just learning to pick up marbles with our toes.

What is your next step of faith? Mine is not running away from problems I can’t solve, but learning to face them and trust God to help me find the answers as I do. Tell you what: I’ll pray for you in regards to your next step of faith if you’ll pray for me.

--By John Fischer

Not Alone

Here is one I came across last week...

There is hardly a human need stronger than the need to belong. We were created this way. Every one of us came out of a womb screaming for warmth, companionship, and someone else’s heartbeat. We were rudely ripped out of that idyllic existence and thrust into a cold, impersonal, lonely world. (No wonder babies cry.) And the rest of our lives are spent trying to find that intimacy again. Everyone knows this feeling because everyone has had the same experience once – being so close that our mother’s heartbeat was a constant presence – and everyone knows that reuniting with others is somehow a part of our common purpose in life. No man is an island.

Is it any wonder Jesus prayed, “My prayer for all of them [his disciples and us] is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father – that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT)

We were made to be together. We often think only in terms of our own spiritual lives and forget the fact that God is saving a people to come together for his glory. Salvation is not just an individual matter; it’s a corporate thing – it plugs us into everyone else in the Body of Christ. It is when the church functions as a whole that we give evidence to who we really are. We are the Body of Christ, not the Individual of Christ. Not one of us can reflect, alone, what that body is. His will is expressed in all of us together.

Together we are the bride of Christ. (My grammar checker doesn’t like that last sentence because this concept challenges even our language. Since when is “bride” plural?) I am not the bride; you are not the bride. We are only the bride in completion with all other believers in history and in the world. This is all part of God’s plan to bring us back together where we can hear each other’s heartbeat and experience the oneness that Jesus has with the Father and desires to have with us. Jesus prayed that we would be all wrapped together in oneness with him – us in Christ, and Christ in the Father.

So what does this mean for you and me today? It means we are not alone. We know where we belong. We need to give priority to our relationships with other believers because who we are depends on it. Check your calendar; arrange some lunches. Time put into people is time committed to God and his purposes.

--By John Fischer


I was reading through the assigned readings for this coming Sunday's worship and I was particularly struck by two things in the gospel reading from Mark. James and John start out by demanding that Jesus do whatever they wish, like Jesus is some sort of Genie or puppet or something. Jesus simply asks them if they know what they are talking about and asks if they are worthy to drink of the same cup as him. Of course they reply that they are.

What?! Here's what I'm struck by. How bold are James and John? Demanding that Jesus serve them and claiming they are of equal worthiness to Jesus, are they crazy? Nuts? Stupid? All of the above? Then it strikes me further that despite this brash and cocky approach by "the boys" Jesus doesn't get upset. If somebody came to me with that sort of attitude I don't know if I could even give them the time of day.

So this got me to wondering... When is the last time you approached the throne of God with such boldness? When is the last time you claimed your worthiness within the kingdom?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Spiritual Laziness

I was reading from the classic devotional by Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost For His Highest" today. He was referring to Hebrews 10:24-25 when he said:

"We are all capable of being spiritually lazy saints. We want to stay off the rough roads of life, and our primary objective is to secure a peaceful retreat from the world. The ideas put forth in these verses from Hebrews 10 are those of stirring up one another and of keeping ourselves together. Both of these require initiative— our willingness to take the first step toward Christ-realization, not the initiative toward self-realization. To live a distant, withdrawn, and secluded life is diametrically opposed to spirituality as Jesus Christ taught it."

He later goes on to challenge us a little further saying:

"It is a most disturbing thing to be hit squarely in the stomach by someone being used of God to stir us up— someone who is full of spiritual activity. Simple active work and spiritual activity are not the same thing. Active work can actually be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The real danger in spiritual laziness is that we do not want to be stirred up— all we want to hear about is a spiritual retirement from the world. Yet Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement— He says, "Go and tell My brethren . . ." (Matthew 28:10 )."

Where are you at today? Are you feeling spiritually lazy, desiring to use God to retreat from the world? Or is your faith driving you to go and make a difference in the world? It's quite the challenge... isn't it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Today's devotion from Our Daily Bread struck me in their talking about suffering. At some point in time we all come in contact with suffering; we experience a tornado, our child rebels beyond toleration, a loved one dies, and on and on... We come across this suffering and we begin to ask the question of why? The bottom line, that I got out of the devotion, is that we're in relationship with people and we are all victims of sin. Yet, we are all created to be in community. Is that not something we could take out of last Sunday's reading from Genesis when God said it was not good for man to be alone. Yes, it was said more in regards to marriage but I think it's fair to extrapolate out to understand that we were created to live in community. I don't think God wills us to suffer, makes us to suffer. However, God can allow suffering to exist because we have each other, because we have community. God created us for each other.


When Dawn and I were dating we played a lot of Scrabble, so Monday's devotion from Our Daily Bread struck me because of it's title. They talked about how to be successful at Scrabble you have to be good at math and good at memorizing. You don't actually need to know what the words mean. How often do we pick up language at church that we don't really know what it means, but we wield them as weapons in arguments. Perhaps you've experienced it on the other end when people start throwing around Bible verses to battle their arguments, but if you challenge them they don't really know what those verses mean nor the context in which they were written. I think we're all guilty of it from time to time.

Maybe this is a good reminder to us to take some time and to learn. We need to learn more about the Bible. We may need to learn more about our faith tradition. We need to learn more about what we are talking about in matters of faith. What are you doing to learn? Are you involved in Bible study? Do you have friends you talk about these things with? Are you reading? How are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord?

Monday, October 09, 2006

A God Pause

Monday, 10/9/2006
Amos 5:1-15 (Click to view Bible text below.)

When others criticize or judge you, even when they are right to do so, how do you feel? The natural human tendency is to defend yourself. Defensiveness is one of the most common of human responses - and also one of the least helpful.

What about when others judge you when you are in the wrong? You may still become defensive - a sign that you are not fully admitting the truth (you may even feel defensive as you read these words). Words that attempt to explain, defend and justify are piled higher and higher, but in the end are only a monument to human failure.

The prophet Amos offers a different option: "Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time." These are wise words for individuals and whole nations. Amos' time was a moment to take stock, consider both collective and individual injustice, and then change. That is still our task.

Lord, help us keep salutary silence, that your words may break into our hearts, changing us for the sake of others. Amen.

Chris Smith
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minn.
Master of Divinity , 1993

What If...

Last night as part of a youth ministry training session we played a game called, "What if..." as a way to dream of what our youth ministry might be. So we dreamed of things like, "What if we planned an event that attracted every high school youth in Byron to attend?" or "What if we raised enough funds to do a mission trip to another country?"

This morning after reading the assigned Gospel for this Sunday I was left asking another "What if..." What if I spoke the truth that I hear in here. Verse 25 is familiar, but quite harsh, speaking of how it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Why is it harsh? Look around, we are rich people. If this is the case we are up a creek and totally without paddles. It does not look good. Then you glance back at our old testament reading from Amos, especially verse 10, and my suspicions are confirmed. Of course our reading from Hebrews this Sunday reminds us that the word of God is a double edged sword. So it maybe it's a good thing... What if I called people to task this Sunday for their extravagant wealth? I bet people would be upset with me. I wonder, though, if it weren't something people needed to hear and would benefit them in the long run...

What if...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Bad Mix

In recent months in the Minneapolis Star Tribune there have been a few articles in their Faith & Values section about conservative Christian leaders who have grown frustrated with the mixing of faith (the church) and politics. I found it interesting because that was part of the genius of George W. Bush politics. He managed to engage the conservative, Christian, right with their sense of morals and values for our nation.

The danger, I think, is the Bible is not nearly as clear cut as poll taking politicians would like it to be. Sure you can make arguments that grow out of the Bible that support a conservative anti-abortion side of politics. You can also make arguments that grow out of the Bible that support liberal spending that supports food shelves and homeless shelters. I don't remember Jesus ever throwing his weight behind a particular political party or agenda. He told Peter, "If you love me then feed my sheep." I also remember Jesus encouraging us to "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself." He didn't tell us how to do it.

Now, because there weren't clear instructions on how to do these things we get political finger pointing, with each side accusing the other side of evil ways. One of the problems is that what your mother taught you is true. When you point a finger at someone there are three more pointing back at you. Do we need a clearer demonstration of that than this most recent political scandal coming out of Congress? Mark Foley led a self-righteous personal agenda pointing fingers at the evils of this world, and it turned out he stumbled morally himself - the fingers started pointing to him. We are all capable of sin. We all do it.

In recent years the conservative leaders have wanted to claim a moral high ground by pointing towards their political victories/success. We have learned they are maybe no better than the rest of us. That's not to say the liberal, democratic side is immune to it. I wouldn't be surprised to see liberals claiming moral high ground or religious superiority in the near future and have it come crashing in on them as well. It seems the way we humans operate, somewhat oblivious to history.

You see, I think, religion and politics are a bad mix. I would agree that our faith influences how we view the world and how we make decisions. We can't leave our faith at home when we go to the polls to vote this fall. However, I don't think the Democrats nor the Republicans can claim to have a corner on operating how God wants. Do you remember when Jesus cleared the temple? In part people were claiming a religious superiority and trying to sell it, just like some of our politicians are trying to do today. It all falls short because ultimately it is simply the seller turned in, focused on, themselves and that is how I remember Luther describing sin.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Reading the devotion in Our Daily Bread today I was struck by the quote, "Sin makes us stupid." It really does, doesn't it? We've all fallen into that trap. There are things we know we shouldn't do yet we find ourselves doing them. Paul even wrote about it Romans 7. Maybe that's part of what frustrated me yesterday.

Yesterday I spent the day in a class on "Power and Boundaries." It is an important topic and I'm glad I did it, but there were also moments of frustration within the class. When talking about gross violations of boundaries (i.e. adultery, affairs, etc.) people became understandably upset with those violators. However, doesn't there need to be some sort of understanding on our part? I'm not saying we should accept this behavior? "Sin makes us stupid." Maybe our sins don't appear so heinous on the outside, but aren't we just as guilty of letting sin win in different parts of our life?

I've got a similar frustration with NBC and their recent "To Catch a Predator" series on Dateline. I thought it was good for them to do the first time. It served as a good reminder to parents that they need to be keeping track of what their children are doing on the internet, just like they need to monitor what they're watching on television, etc. However, this has gone on and one for some time now. They continue to vilify these guys. They are probably justified in doing so, but I would love to see them do something to help these guys before they reach this point. It seems to me that sin has taken over these peoples lives and now it has made them stupid. Do you seeing any of those men on "To Catch a Predator" proud of what they are about to do? So what are we doing to help them?

I suppose I could rail against a number of different things now, but I'll stop. For me the bottom line is "Sin makes us stupid" and none of us are immune to it. I would like to see us have a little more compassion towards those who sin because one day we may need that compassion. That doesn't mean that we accept their actions as being okay, but perhaps we can understand that it just might have us who committed that gross boundary violation. Maybe then we'll see that sinner a little bit differently. Maybe we'll be reminded that we need to rely on Christ.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

3 in 1

Good Enough to Teach

Years ago, after a celebrated international career on the stage, the world-famous violinist Jascha Heifetz became a professor of music at UCLA. When someone asked him why he had left the glamour of performing to become a teacher, Heifetz answered, "Violin-playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on; otherwise it is lost." Then he went on to say, "I remember my old violin professor in Russia. He said that (if I worked hard enough) someday I would be good enough to teach."

From a speech by William Graves, editor of National Geographic magazine, Speaker's Idea File


Carry Someone with You

There was a tribe of Native Americans who lived a long time ago in the state of Mississippi. They lived next to a very swift and dangerous river. The current was so strong that if somebody happened to fall in or stumbled into it they could be swept away downstream.

One day the tribe was attacked by a hostile group of settlers. They found themselves with their backs against the river. They were greatly outnumbered and their only chance for escape was to cross the rushing river. They huddled together and those who were strong picked up the weak and put them on their shoulders; the little children, the sick, the old and the infirm, those who were ill or wounded were carried on the backs of those who were strongest. They waded out into the river, and to their surprise they discovered that the weight on their shoulders carrying the least and the lowest helped them to keep their footing and to make it safely across the river.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com


Mastering the Virtue of Humility

"What do you think of the candidates?" That's what a reporter for a news magazine asked a young woman at Dartmouth University after a debate among presidential hopefuls. She didn't say a word about their positions on the issues or their skill at debate. She simply remarked, "None of them seems to have any humility."

Benjamin Franklin, the early American statesman, made a list of character qualities that he wanted to develop in his own life. When he mastered one virtue, he went on to the next. He did pretty well, he said, until he got to humility. Every time he thought he was making significant progress, he would be so pleased with himself that he became proud.

Humility is an elusive virtue. Even Jesus' disciples struggled with it. When Jesus learned that they had been arguing about who was the greatest, He responded, "If anyone desires to be first, he should be last of all and servant of all" (Mk. 9:35). Then He took a little child in His arms and indicated that we need to humbly serve others as if we were serving Christ.

If a news reporter were to talk to our friends, neighbors, or fellow church members and ask them to describe us, would they use the word humble?

Our Daily Bread, November 3, 1998

A Prayer for Today

Gracious Lord, As the gentle rain covers the earth and the wind blows I feel a chill entering my body. It seems this cold has come all too soon. Yet, Lord, as your rain nourishes the ground and the wind spreads seeds to bring new life, may your love reign my soul filling it with seeds of new life, a new life that is found in you. For it is in you that ultimately we all find life. In so doing, O God, I trust that my soul will be warmed, warmed with the glow of grace. Thank for hearing my prayer. Amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I like to talk about humility, but it's hard for me. I think the reason that I am fascinated with things like Reality TV people becoming celebrities is because I secretly want to become one as well. I want to the receive the glory, the recognition for what I've don't. Honestly, though, don't we all?

Yet, isn't there something good about anonymity? The Today Show had a report today about lottery winners who have had difficult lives AFTER winning. I'm guessing most of them would have liked to have been able to remain anonymous now.

Today's entry in Our Daily Bread talks about remaining anonymous. When we're in public we begin to worry and fret about things that don't really matter, in the cosmic sense, like what other people think of us. What really matters is what God thinks, not our peers. The author points out that Jesus on at least three different occasions mentioned how you Father in heaven will openly reward you for what he sees you do in secret. You see our acts done in secret are much more likely to be done to the glory of God. In public it is more likely that we do things for our own glory. I know I'm guilty of that.


At lunchtime the other day I started flipping through the channels on my television. I found a remake of the old Battle of the Network stars, but with Reality Show "stars." I'll admit I got sucked into it, but I'm a little confused. Reality TV was created to take a glimpse into normal peoples lives (I think that was the point). Now these people have become celebrities in their own right. I've seen other Reality TV personality competitions before and there seems to be a number recurring competitors. So now we have a group of people making a living by going from Reality Show to Reality Show. What happened to reality? It's become celebrity? I can't quite explain it, but it just feels really kind of bizarre to me... I'm getting a newspaper headline starting to flash through my head, "Legal Peeping Toms Create Celebrities!"... Voyeurism is alive and well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Yesterday you couldn't watch the news without seeing a number of reports about the 5 year anniversary of 9/11. I think it's good to remember, to mourn again, to grieve as we need. In a number of reports I heard people make comments about it being important to remember what really happened, because sometimes we forget. I think that is probably true.

It also made me think. If we forget what really happened five years ago, how apt are we to forget what Christ really did two thousand years ago? Around the church we sometimes say things rather flipply like, "Christ died for you." It's just a passing comment in a series of minor arguments. Yet isn't that event even more significant? We say the world wasn't the same after those planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and it's true. Yet how much more true is it that the world was never the same after what Christ really did for us on the cross?

Different Christs

Marva Dawn in Reaching Out without Dumbing Down suggests the possibility of different christs today when she writes: At the 1987 Vancouver World's Fair, the Christian pavilion's presentation utilized glitzy double-reversed photography and flashing lasers. When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their "show," she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes? Will a glitzy portrayal of Christ nurture in new believers his character of willing suffering and sacrificial obedience? Will it create an awareness of the idolatries of our age and lead to repentance? And does a flashy, hard-rock sound track bring people to a Christ who calls us away from the world's superficiality to deeper reflection and meditation? [p. 50]

Marva Dawn, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down.

Monday, September 11, 2006

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is perhaps one of the best-known and often-sung Holy Week hymns. It was written by Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, whose life and ministry the church commemorates on Aug. 20.

The hymn is about Jesus' passion, the pain and suffering Christ endured for our salvation. It is a vivid picture of Christ's self-sacrificing love for us. But it is also a personal lament for our sinfulness and as well as solemn thanksgiving for Christ's willingness to die on the cross.

We may see Jesus' passion as weakness and defeat, causing us to turn away from him. But it is hardly that, since it reveals his steadfast love and faithfulness for us. Consequently, Jesus' passion can strengthen and console us throughout our lives - especially when death draws near, because it cradles us in God's love and renews our faith in God's goodness and grace.


Lord Jesus, you were sent to heal the sick:
Lord Jesus, you comfort the afflicted:
Lord Jesus, you give us yourself to heal us and bring us strength:

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to one another and to the Father:
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division:
Lord Jesus, you show us God's love:

Lord Jesus, you seek the lost:
Lord Jesus, you admonish the sinner:
Lord Jesus, you invite us to reconciliation,

Lord Jesus, you restore us to wholeness:
Lord Jesus, you forgive the sinner,
Lord Jesus, you bring pardon and peace to the sinner

Loving God, you know the secrets of our hearts.
Free us from all anxiety and vengeance,

give us courage to tell the truth,
to seek the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Restore all who are broken to wholeness in body and spirit.
Open them to your goodness and justice.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why Church?

Why Do I Need Church?

" …And it is for that reason that I told my friend by the campfire in Grand Marais that that the main reason I go to church is not because I need the community or to learn something new about God or how to live a better life. The #1 reason I go to church is to get saved. Not because going to church earns us any kind of extra credit. Not at all! I go to church to get saved because I don’t live in Galilee and I don’t live 2000 years ago. I live here and church is where Jesus continues to speak and to act… it’s here that the gospel and sacraments of Christ are given out and it’s here that the Son of God comes directly to everyone whose there with all his grace and saving power.

I told him that it’s not enough for me to hear the gospel once as a child, or every Christmas and Easter thinking that will sustain me… I told him that I think we’re all hard wired to doubt, to forget, to twist and turn God’s good news into something that often sounds far less than good I told him that it’s hard for me to believe such incredibly good news—the good news that in Jesus Christ I don’t need to earn my salvation or work hard to achieve peace with God… that these are the very things Jesus died to freely give me—and that the devil and death itself no longer have power over me! And I told him this is such incredibly good news that, honestly, it’s hard for me to go a full week and still believe it. I start to thinking I’m not worthy of it and I fall back into that trap that maybe there’s something I need to do to earn it. I need to have my faith rekindled often so that I can go yet another week assured that I and everyone else that gathers in church with me are God’s very own possessions. That’s why I need the church…."

--J.M. Bjorge (from Sunday’s sermon)

Lesson from Leaving

Well, we're back from vacation. It was good to get away and relax some. However, doesn't always feel like you could use one more week of vacation no matter how long you're gone? I suppose part of it is that as soon as you get back there is a whole long list of chores you need to catch up on.

One chore immediately staring us in the face was the need to mow the lawn. An incredible notion really. Throughout the summer we did all that we could think of to encourage the lawn to grow. We began the summer with fertilizing. We spent time watering during hot stretches. We let it grow longer to protect it from the heat. We really wanted to have a great lawn, but it struggled to grow. It spent most of the summer ugly and brown. Then we leave for about two weeks, with only God to care for it, and we return to a virtual rain forest. I'm thinking if we mow it just right we might even make the folks over at Somerby jealous. Funny how that works.

Maybe we should pay attention. Isn't that the way it goes in our lives sometimes? We work and work on our lives trying to fix it and improve it by our own shear will. Yet, what if we just left well enough alone, leaving it for only God to tend to. Maybe then we'll find our lives flourishing... I think that might have some real potential.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


In our gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus says, "unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood." Seriously, that is just plain gross. Sure, we can listen to that now and think, "Ooh, Jesus is talking about communion. Isn't that wonderful?" However, place yourself back in that time. Imagine sitting around and hearing Jesus say this. What would you be thinking? Why would the one you're starting to think just might be the savior be suggesting cannibalism? And on top of that suggesting that he be the main course for dinner? That's just plain nasty.

A strange thing our faith is... at least if you sit down and thing about some of it. Especially if we want to take it literally. Luckily we know that there are portions of the Bible that are intended to be taken symbolically. However, as Fred Hasecke points out in his devotion, that doesn't make the comprehension of things like communion all so much easier. It is really such a profound thing that is happening in our sacraments. Theologians have wrestled and tried to explain it for years, but nobody has fully been able to wrap their heads around it. Yet, so profound how Christ comes to us in such simple ways like the waters of baptism or the bread and wine of communion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Get Out of the Way

In seminary, and I've heard other pastors say this, we used to say things like, "I just want to try and not get in the way of the Holy Spirit." I think it is important. We have a way of wanting to be the center of attention. I think that's normal. I'm that way a lot. The problem is when you become such the focus that we lose sight of God.

Yesterday was a good reminder of that. In the devotions in Our Daily Bread the author talked about Caroll Spinney the puppeteer behind the well known characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Caroll has done a masterful job of remaining behind the scenes so that the characters can shine. Much in the same way John the Baptist suggested that he must decrease so that Christ might increase... Where do you need to get out of the way?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dining with God

When Seymour passed away, God greeted him at the Pearly Gates. "Thou be hungry, Seymour?" said God.

"I could eat," Seymour replied.

So God opened a can of tuna and reached for a chunk of rye bread and they shared it. While eating this humble meal, Seymour glanced down into Hell and saw the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, pastries, and fine wines. Curious, but deeply trusting, Seymour remained quiet.

The next day God again invited Seymour for another meal. Again, it was tuna and rye bread. Once again looking down, Seymour could see the denizens of Hell enjoying caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles, and chocolates. Still Seymour said nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrived and God opened another can of tuna. Seymour could contain himself no longer. Meekly, he said: "God, I am grateful to be in heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. But here in heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread and in the Other Place they eat like emperors and kings! Forgive me, O God, but I just don’t understand."

God sighed: "Let’s be honest, Seymour. For just two people does it pay to cook?"

O, Lord Give Me a Penny

A man asked God,"What does a billion dollars mean to you who are all powerful?"
"Hardly a penny." God said.

Then the man asked God , "And what are a thousand centuries to you?" God answered "Hardly a second!!"

Thinking he had God backed into a corner, the man then said, "Then if that's the case, O, Lord give me a penny !!"

"Sure," God replied. “In just a minute.”

Wisdom isn't outsmarting God, wisdom is living in and with God. Wisdom is being in Christ and surrounded by Christ. Wisdom is eating and drinking from the feast which God has prepared for us.

Today's God Pause

Psalm 34:9-14 (Click to view Bible text below.)

What is it that we seek and fear, want and revere in our quest for a long and prosperous life? Is it the Lord of heaven and earth, who has given us the hope of eternal life with God and all the saints through Christ's death and resurrection? Or is it the power and prestige, selfishness and bigotry that can turn us into young lions that do not fear the Lord, but rather roar fiercely and devour their prey in an endless hunger for more?
How strange it is that the world should turn so often to the latter with lies and evil deeds, since it holds no promise for a better life. One would think that we would know better. And so, the cry goes out: Listen to the Lord and pursue peace by following in Christ's footsteps, for those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

Giver of everything good, we come before you with reverent hearts and ask for your guidance in our pursuit of peace, so that all may enjoy the fullness of life that comes from you in Christ. Amen.

Fred Hasecke
Trinity English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Master of Divinity , 1973

Monday, August 14, 2006

Something More

Give this God Pause devotion a read. We have a lot in common with the world. We are simple people. However, we are also called to something more, I think. Like the author points out we are called to not just be human, but humane. I think we are good, but I also think we are called to be great. You see, we are filled the Holy Spirit. We have Jesus in our hearts. We have been, and are, fed with the bread of life. We may not be any better than others, but because of our intimate relationship with God we are called to something more. So go and be great... because of God.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I remember as a kid people always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still ask that question some times of myself. Although, more often I wonder what it would be like to be somebody else or to be more like a particular person. Do you ever wonder about those things? What would it be like to live the life of somebody like Brad Pitt? How would you act differently if you were to act more like Mother Theresa? The devotions from Luther Seminary, called God Pause, offer an interesting challenge in that area. It's normal, I think to model your life after other people, but who are you going to chose? Somebody like your parents, somebody that fought for justice like Martin Luther King Jr., or will you chose a celebrity that lives an outrageous lifestyle? The choice is yours. Who will you chose? Who?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Seeing God

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said:

“When you have no helpers, see all your helpers in God.
When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers.
When you have nothing but God, see all in God;

when you have everything, see God in everything.
Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”


When did you last read the Lord's prayer in your Bible? I was reading the version in Matthew today and was struck by what appears to be an emphasis on forgiveness. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, but it can be a scary thing as well. To start with if we let things go long enough we get used to being mad at a certain person and to forgive would mean changing that pattern. What might that look like? How would we deal with that person now? The other scary part is that to get to forgiveness there often needs to be a confrontation. So instead of a calm before the storm we need to face a storm before the calm. In forgiveness there needs to be a confrontation of the wrong that has happened, and very few of us like confrontation. Yet I think we all know the beauty of the other side of forgiveness, that side where we are forgiven. It's a beautiful and wonderful gift. If God can forgive us then it seems that we can forgive others, we can share that gift. Wouldn't that make this world a more beautiful place?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Question: Would you say that you, as a citizen of this great nation, are blessed? If your answer is “Yes!” how do you understand being “blessed? You have a fine home. You drive a nice ear. You have a good job. You are financially secure. You have a good retirement plan. Perhaps you have a cabin or cottage up on some lake.

Jesus never defines “being blessed” in those terms. He defines “blessed” only in terms of how we use life to reflect His servant life-style. He did not live to get and enjoy. He lived to love and to serve—full-time. And we are called to do the same.

We do well to remember that there is no such thing as Christian giving. There is only Christian management of God’s property— including the body in which each of us lives, and which is on loan from God. The goal must not be to encourage people to give more. It must be to inspire them to rob less. Money, after all, is merely stored servanthood.

When Jesus (the true Head of the Church, God’s people) was crucified, His executioners took away all of His earthly possessions: a head cloth, an outer robe, an inner robe, a belt and a pair of sandals. Jesus was crucified naked. Even so, His life was the most blessed life the world has ever seen! And we, His brothers and sisters, are to seek to reflect His style of “blessed life.” A life of servanthood!

--Harry Wendt

Make It

"Fake It 'til You Make It"

I think it's an interesting phrase. I think in a number of cases that can be good advice. It can be a way to learn things like manners. Yet, like most things that have good potential when it's taken too far it can get ugly. On Sunday morning after worship we happened to catch the preacher Joel Osteen on TV. What we got out of his sermon was, if you are feeling bad just tell yourself to have a good day. It kind of rubbed Dawn and I the wrong way. Sometimes your days are bad enough that you can't just will yourself to be happy and cheery, in fact it might just be wrong. For example, I had friend who is an ER nurse tell me about a woman who came in with a child that died from SIDs over night. She showed up later that day because another child of hers had been run over by a car. So what I heard from Joel is that this woman could, and should, just decide to have a good day. I don't think so. We had some other issues with what we heard as well, but we won't get into them here.

Sometimes we have bad days with our faith, we have times when we start to wander in a spiritual wilderness. I think we that happens we have a tendency to try and cover it up and make everything look good. We don't want to look like we lack for faith. The devotion from "Our Daily Bread" talked about that some today. In an attempt to cover up our lack of faith we decide to fake it until we make it. An interesting thought. It might just work sometimes. Yet, I wouldn't recommend it because it puts quite a burden on you that you then need to bear. Instead, this would be another place to be genuine, especially with fellow believers. As a Christian you are a part of a community, that means in those tough times we are here to help bear your burdens so you don't have to by yourself. It is through the body of Christ that you will make it... not by faking it.

Together, but Alone

Sunday's sermon tried to get at our call to unity and pointed out some of the ways we've become divided. After worship, it struck me that I missed one of the biggest challenges we face in trying to connect with one another. Technology. I love technology myself, but in some ways it has killed our community. How often do you see a group of people, especially younger people, together and at least one of them is on the phone or someone is listening to their i-pod? We might be in the same room together, but we're tuned into our technology and our heads are somewhere else. Our mind is with the song on our i-pod, in our conversation on the phone, thinking about our text message, or what e-mail we are sending. We no longer are fully present, all of us present, to the people we are with in the moment.

Multi-tasking? I don't buy it. It is a law of physics that you cannot be in two places at the same time. You might be able to switch back and forth very quickly and efficiently, but you cannot be in both places at the same time. So I challenge you to unplug your electronics for a while and really interact with one another. Don't answer your phone when it rings, you don't have to, or even better yet don't even bring your phone. Sit around the living room and really have a conversation with one another, or play a board game together. You just might find it to be a beautiful gift.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Starving in a Land of Plenty

During the winter of 1610, the population of Jamestown went from about 500 people to about 60. While disease and conflict with the natives took some, most of the settlers simply starved. There were plentiful supplies of fish, oysters, frogs, fowl, and deer; but these settlers from the city were not accustomed to obtaining food from the land. Hence, they starved!

We sometimes act the same way. God comes to us continually in the person of the Holy Spirit to guide us. As a loving Father God awaits the opportunity to meet our needs, but we are not accustomed to receiving from His loving hand. Nor does it occur to us to pray. So we wander blindly from problem to problem, a sort of picture of those early settlers who starved in a land of plenty.

--King Duncan

What Would You Pay?

In the devotion today from "Our Daily Bread" the author tells the story of a man in communist Russia who didn't have a Bible and so every night he borrowed his friends Bible and laboriously copied it by hand from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. He then poses an interesting question, "Imagine not having access to a copy of the Bible. What price would you pay to get one?" How many of us have Bibles that simply take up space on the book shelf and collect dust? How many of us have had times when we were asked to bring a Bible had a difficult time locating ours? Have we lost the significance of the Bible?

In the gospel of John we hear a story about people who were following Jesus that stopped following him because they became offended by what Jesus was teaching. (Funny how we have kind of "Disneyfied" the gospel so that it is rarely offensive to anyone any more.) After a number of these people leave Jesus turns to the disciples and asks if they too are going to leave. To which Peter replies, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Jesus has the words of eternal life and those words can be found in the Bible. Yet on our shelves it sits, forgotten by many.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty. There have been a number of times I've attended interdenominational church meetings and people from other churches showed up carrying Bibles. Why wouldn't they, they take them everywhere they go? I was embarrassed to admit I didn't even consider bringing my Bible, even though it was a church event. Why wouldn't I naturally bring my Bible with me at all times? If it contains the words of eternal life, is it not a priceless treasure?

I pray today that we would all thirst for the living water that is Christ. I pray that we would all hunger for the bread of life that satisfies. I pray that we would treasure Christ as the amazing gift that He is, and not let our Savior become something that is in the far backgound of our life.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Many of us are familiar with the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." It's a wonderful song, a wonderful reminder of what a companion we have in Jesus. Yet, sometimes I feel I need more friendship than that, I need friends here in the flesh. Last night we had some friends over for dinner. It was good to have them over. It was a reminder of how we need friends. If there is one thing Dawn and I have struggled with in our move to Byron it would be loneliness. It takes time to make new friends in a new community. It feels like it takes even longer than it does because in the process you leave behind friends from where you moved. Such is life.

So I have been thinking about friends lately. I've been thinking an expression I've heard that says, "You have to be a friend to make a friend." So it was striking to me that the devotion today from "Our Daily Bread" was about friends (go ahead and read it, I think it was pretty good). They compared Daniel and Job's friends. Job's friends antagonized, while Daniels friends supported and strengthened one another in difficult times. So I will leave you with the questions today's author leaves us with, "What kind of friend are you?" Do you antagonize, or do you support and encourage friends in their faith. "Who needs you to be a friend today?"

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A While

So it's been a while since I posted. It was somewhere before the trip to Boston. What a great trip that was, but it wore me out. Then I got out of practice and the ball kept dropping further and further. Soon this blog was nearly forgotten. However, I am here to attempt to resurrect my practice. The danger is I'll be going on vacation in a couple of weeks, then what is going to happen? Who knows? However, we'll take the new life now while we can get it.

Today I got to thinking about several things. With this quietness on the blog I was thinking about this near drought we've been experiencing and the rain we've received this morning. Isn't that how our lives go sometimes? We go through these dry periods and the grass in our life starts to turn brown and die. Fortunately, like grass, we are made tough and we will survive. We keep coming back to life. (Thanks be to God for that one) I wonder, though, if in the midst of a drought if we dump too much water on all at once if we'll burn as well?

I was thinking about the Good Samaritan in my devotion time. We often think of ourselves in terms of one of the men who passed by that poor, beaten man. I suppose in some ways we are. However, I also wonder if we're not also that poor, beaten victim. In life we will inevitably need to make decisions in our life and inevitably we're going to make the wrong choice at some point. When we do that does not Jesus then become the Good Samaritan for us, passing by to pick us up and cares for us unto healing? What a wonderful gift that is!

Why Are You Here?

Why Are You Here?

One day a couple by the name of Herman and Mary were riding along in their shiny new car. Mary spoke up and said, "You know, Herman, if it weren't for my money, we probably wouldn't have this wonderful new car." And Herman just sat there and didn't say anything at all.

As they pulled into the driveway, Herman turned off the motor and they quietly admired their new home. Then Mary said, "You know, Herman, if it weren't for my money, we probably wouldn't have this new house." And again, Herman just sat there and didn't say anything.

They got out of the car and walked in just as the delivery man finished setting up their new furniture. You know, Herman, said Mary once more, "If it were not for my money, we probably wouldn't have this new carpet and all this new furniture." And once more, Herman didn't say a word.

It happened again as they sat down in their new den and propped their feet up and watched the big screen TV in their new entertainment center. "You know, Herman," said Mary, "if it were not for my money, we probably wouldn't have this huge entertainment center."

And with that, poor Herman had had enough. He turned to Mary and said, "I don't want to hurt your feelings, Honey, but you know if it weren't for your money, I probably wouldn't be here either!"

What is it that brings you here? Why did you choose to become a part of this church? If you are not a member, what are you looking for in a church?

Maxie Dunnam, Collected Works, www.eSermons.com, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Transformed by Truth

Three thoughts...

"The truth transforms us. Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth..."
This just sort of struck me in light of what Pastor Dave preached about this past Sunday on Pentecost. Jesus sent us to lead us to the truth, not truthiness that we're so inclined to follow. (truthiness, for those who weren't there, has been made popular by Steven Colbert and basically is talking about saying something over and over enough until we believe it is true. For example President Bush in the last election had about three or four things he had to say and he repeated them over and over again until we believed they were true whether they were or not. No need to check into it because we've heard it enough, so it must be true. Urban legends live on that way as well.)

"Anytime you feel you are not learning anything from a sermon or a Bible teacher, you should check your attitude, especially pride, because God can speak through even the most boring teacher when you are humble and receptive." Okay, there was a shot that hit home. How many nuggets of wisdom have I missed because of my pride as I'm listening? I miss all kinds of things and most of it is because I'm thinking things like, "This guys an idiot" or "I could say that so much better than he's saying it." Yeah, nice attitude pastor! So there you have it, I'm human. Hopefully those sitting in the pews on Sunday morning are better listeners...

"Receiving, reading, researching, remembering, and reflecting on the Word are all useless if we fail to put them into practice....Actually, you can be so busy going to the next class or seminar or Bible conference that you have no time to implement what you've learned."
It seems that we in the church aren't always so helpful in this area as we try and provide options, but they feel like requirements. We are called not to just hear the Word. We're not called to just receive the Word, but we're called to LIVE the Word!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Stress... it's an interesting thing, but I'll come back to that.

You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. Part of that was due to my being gone on vacation for a while. It was good to get away, even if it wasn't far, and to not think about "job" stuff for a little while and let the head clear. Part of it, though has been related to feeling the stress of all that will hopefully be accomplished over the coming summer. This stress is an interesting thing, though. It seems to me the unspoken rule is that if you have problems you just need to pull yourself up by the boot straps, just dig in a little more and work harder. Stress is kind of like a weed or a virus in that way. At least that's the way it works for me. You see when I dig in more and work harder it tends to make me more stressed because then I don't have the time or the energy for those other things that help me relieve stress like running, watching movies, or sharing a home cooked meal. So what is one to do? If stuff doesn't get done it sits out there in front of you taunting you keeping the stress fresh. I guess all you can do is to slowly chip away at it... for now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Grow Up!

Today Warren reminds us that we are called to grow in our faith. Unfortunately a lot of people simply grow older, but not so much in maturity, especially not spiritual maturity. Warren asserts that is most likely due to the fact then never really ever intended to grow. He goes on to say, "Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes an intentional commitment. You must want to grow, decide to grow, make an effort to grow, and persist in growing... Jesus calls us, and we respond: 'Come, be my disciple,' Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.'"

For those who are concerned about this notion of having to do something, or decision theology, Warren goes on to refer to Philippians 2:12-13 saying, "This verse, written to believers, is not about how to be saved, but how to grow. It does not say "work for" your salvation, because you can't add anything to what Jesus already did. During a physical 'workout,' you exercise to develop your body, not to get a body."

The chapter ends reminding us that we need to change our auto pilot, the way we think. By sheer will power we can effect change, for a little while. However, if we don't change our base way of thinking we will be back to way were. We can willpower ourselves to follow a diet or start an exercise program. We might even last for a while, but unless we change the way we think we will eventually drop the diet and return to the couch. I can see that now with my running. I've got some really strong willpower and have used it to complete a number of marathons. I still need to adjust my mindset if running is going to continue as a consistent part of my life. The same is true if I intend to grow as a Christian. I need to repent and change my mindset so that I'm "programmed" to grow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Created to Become Like Christ

Today, Warren talks about being created to become like Christ. He reminds us that we were created in God's image. What does it mean to you that you were created in God's image?

He brings us back to the old expression, "Like Father like Son." It speaks to how Christ is so very like God. As God's children it speaks to us as well, I think. Still, Warren reminds that we were not created to be gods or to become gods. Put those two thoughts together and I got to thinking about how we try and become like gods, feeling entitled to create our own destiny. Our desire to become gods, I think, is most often manifested today in our worship of our children. It is good to love our children, to give them what they need, but I think we go beyond that. The way we traipse around to their games and tournaments, rearranging our life for the sake of kids (even if it means giving up worship time or serving God through the church). It is scary. None of us, really, are immune to it. We were guilty just this past weekend. We allowed Mother's Day to be usurped by Senior Recognition.

For those who want to be critical of "The Purpose Driven Life" they often attack at it being some sort of Christian self-help book. Yet, I don't think it can be characterized with the kind of superficiality that is implied by such critiques. In a number of places Warren has warned against that sort of behavior. Today's chapter especially reminds us that life is hard. And he leaves us with this thought, "Sadly, a quick review of many popular Christian books reveals that many believers have abandoned living for God's great purposes and settled for personal fulfillment and emotional stability. That is narcissism, not discipleship. Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives."


Has anybody else been dreaming of fish lately?


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Protecting Your Church

Today Rick Warren talks about unity in the church, but I think the best word he used was "harmony." I think that is more fitting of what he is going after. In music the best music has different notes all playing together at the same time. They are different, but moving together, in some ways moving towards the same goal. That is the image I have of the church.

The problem seems to be that we so naturally focus on the negatives, focus on our differences, instead of focusing on what we have in common and what is going well. It is easy for us to look and see that we are little behind financially here at church, but why not celebrate that our attendance and giving is up (quite significantly) from last year and years past. We worry more about how other congregations worship and run their congregation and less time celebrating the number of people worshiping Jesus on a given Sunday. Perhaps it is unrealistic expectations of the church. Perhaps we forget there is no perfect church.

In talking about being realistic Warren says:
"People become disillusioned with the church for many understandable reasons. The list could be quite long: conflict, hurt, hypocrisy, neglect, pettiness, legalism, and other sins. Rather than being shocked and surprised, we must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we're sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally....Reconciliation, not running away, is the road to stronger character and deeper fellowship...
...Groucho Marx was famous for saying he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would let him in. If a church must be perfect to satisfy you, that same perfection will exclude you from membership, because you're not perfect!"

There is no perfect church, but we can most certainly strive to work together, to live in harmony.